Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel may not be ready to start the regular season after having hand surgery on July 8, general manager Jim Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Monday.
The defending Stanley Cup champions open the season against the Washington Capitals at Consol Energy Center on Oct. 13.
"At this point, based on where he's tracking, yes [Kessel would be OK to start the season]," Rutherford said. "But with surgery like that, you can't say 100 percent for sure. Even if it's not for the start of the season, it wouldn't be that much time."
Kessel has played in 528 consecutive NHL games, including a combined 106 regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games last season, his first in Pittsburgh. He had 14 goals and 34 points in his final 39 regular-season games after joining the "HBK Line" with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino. Kessel's 10 goals and 22 points in the postseason led the Penguins in their run to the 2016 Stanley Cup.
Video: SJS@PIT, Gm2: Kessel opens scoring after turnover
The Penguins acquired Kessel, 28, from the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015, with forward Tyler Biggs, defenseman Tim Erixon and a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft in a trade for defenseman Scott Harrington, forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, and two draft picks.
Rutherford also said he is optimistic that other injured Penguins, including defensemen Trevor Daley (broken ankle) and Kris Letang (foot), and forwards Bonino (elbow infection), Bryan Rust (hand), Patric Hornqvist (hand) and Evgeni Malkin (elbow), will be ready to play against the Capitals.
Malkin (Team Russia) and Hornqvist (Team Sweden) will compete at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 beginning Sept. 17 in Toronto.
"All the injured guys are tracking in the right direction," Rutherford said. "Until they all get here, we won't know 100 percent where they're at, but it sounds like all the guys should be ready for camp.
"You always have a concern about the recovery period. Are guys 100 percent ready to go? They may be right at the start of the year and then you hit a little lull. But teams are going to do that anyways. I think that with our depth, we should be able to work our way through it."